Patten calls education protesters neanderthal

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The Independent Online
JOHN PATTEN, the Secretary of State for Education, accused representatives of parents' groups lobbying Westminster yesterday of being 'neanderthal' in their protests about education.

The groups from England, Scotland and Wales, including the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, argue that government education policy has provoked a 'national crisis of confidence'. They had requested a meeting with Mr Patten but his office said that he had too many other engagements.

On Radio 4 yesterday, Mr Patten said that those lobbying Parliament were from organisations 'not necessarily representative of the average PTA around the country', and claimed that they were protesting against 'common points of agreement', such as the national curriculum, testing and publishing results. 'They're arguing against that: it's neanderthal,' Mr Patten said.

The national league tables were the main focus of attack. Diana Daly, of Parents' Coalition in Scotland, said: 'We support the idea of providing information to parents, but we object to examination results being presented as the main criterion for parents when they choose schools.'

Judith Gillespie, of Parents' Coalition, said that the league tables placed too great a burden on parents in selecting good education. 'Parents are becoming extremely insecure about the education system . . . We should be giving them more confidence.'

The parents' organisations also expressed concern about the way tests for 14-year-olds are being implemented, and demanded more consultation between parents and government. They said that they intended to conduct a survey of parents' views on key aspects of education policy.

Ann Taylor, Labour's education spokeswoman, told the meeting: 'By his actions so far this year, John Patten has demonstrated that it is simply not possible to run the nation's schools from Whitehall . . . Our schools need a proper partnership between central and local government based upon a dialogue of equals.'